Olympic Preview: 5 Stories to Watch

The Olympics are only a couple of days away and after twelve days of sport previews it is time to take a look at the Overall stories of the Olympics. The Olympics are the centre of the sports world for two weeks in the summer every four years as nothing else seems to matter. With athletes from around the world gathering sports fans get to see top-tier sports with athletes from all different backgrounds. It is an event that captures the imagination of the sports fan with so many different stories to watch. There are the athletes who go into the Olympics with high expectations as they try to match the hopes of a country. There are Athletes who go in to the Olympics with no expectations and surprise everyone with an inspiring performance. Then there are always the inspiring stories of athletes coming back from injuries or overcoming extreme circumstances to make it to the Olympics and perform. The stories are endless as these athletes sacrifice so much to do what they love and for many it all comes done for a few days in August. Many will train for four years some have trained for longer but all will go into the Olympics with their hopes high as they look to bring home a medal this year. There will be plenty to watch out for this year in London as the drama begins on Friday when the games are open. With so much going on here are five of the biggest stories in the Olympics this year as the world once again looks to the Olympic Games.


World’s Fastest Man Up for Grabs





The Jamaican’s have ruled the track for the last few Olympics as the 100m has been their event to lose. This was made even more clear in 2008 when the greatest sprinter to set foot on the track stepped to the blocks in Beijing. Usain Bolt is a different breed of athlete as he was not just faster than his competition but he was on another planet. He showed it leading up to the Olympics beating everyone he faced by large margins creating a lot of excitement leading into the Olympics. Many wondered how he would manage under the pressure of the Olympics when he went to Beijing. In the 100m race Bolt showed that the pressure had no effect on him as he blew out of the blocks and got out to a big lead. As he approached the finish line Bolt seemed to slow down and then everyone realized he was doing it on purpose when he lifted his arms up and began celebrating before the finish. He crossed the line in 1st place and with a new world record leaving many to wonder what he was actually capable of if he went all out the hole race. As the reigning fastest man on the planet Bolt will again go into the Olympics as one of the biggest superstars in the games although this year he will have a legitimate challenger. Instead of walking into London as a shoe-in to win the 100m gold there is now some doubt to his dominance in the event. The doubt has crept up thanks to another Jamaican sprinter as Yohan Blake has been able to truly test Bolt in the event. Blake made headlines a few months ago when he beat Usain Bolt twice in the Jamaican Olympic Trials becoming one of the few people to beat Bolt. Both sprinters will enter the Olympics as the 100m seems to be under a cloud of uncertainty. There is no doubt that the most anticipated event in the Olympics will be a Blake-Bolt matchup in the 100m final as everyone will be focused on Bolt and Blake throughout the 100m heats at London.


New Boundaries Broken





The Olympics have always been a place for top athletes to compete and determine who the best of the best are. In 1948 a group gave this opportunity to another section of society as the first Paralympic Games were held allowing war veterans to compete. In 1960 the qualifications were opened up to anyone with a disability including those in wheelchairs and amputees. The idea was to highlight those people who had disabilities and prove that they could perform at a high level in athletics. There have always been this division among the Paralympics and the Olympics as able body athletes have always had an advantage over those in the Paralympics. Then came Oscar Pistorius who looked to challenge this division between able-bodied and disabled athletes. Pistorius was born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs and had both of his legs amputated between the knees and the ankles. In 2004 he turned his interest to running and began training using blade designed for running and called the Cheetah Flex-Foot. Since beginning his running career Pistorius has wanted to compete in the Olympics alongside the able-bodied athletes to show that he did not need a classification to compete. In 2007 the IAAF made it that much harder changing the rules to exclude any athlete that uses a technical device to run. In 2008 Pistorius began a legal battle to get rid of the rule and allow him to compete if he could qualify alongside other Olympians. In May 2008 he won the decision in court as the IAAF was told to reverse their decision about allowing Pistorius to compete. He would not qualify for Beijing, although he won 3 Gold Medals in the Beijing Paralympics, but never gave up. This year he will get his shot to achieve his dream after being named to the South African Olympic team allowing him to compete in the 400m and the 4x400m relay. He will step on the track in London as the first double amputee to ever compete in the Olympics and although he has very little chance of winning a medal he has already changed the sport for the future.


Arab Spring turns to Summer





The Arab nations have had a very tumultuous year as that area of the world has seen momentous change. The Middle East has seen multiple governments change as rulers have fallen and governments have changed. Some consider it a time of progression and others a time of uncertainty but however you look at it these countries are moving to new places. As they continue to change the world will be taking notice and in the Olympics they will be highlighted. The Olympics has always been a place where political messages or political movements have taken hold. It is the perfect storm for these movements as the world is paying attention to the games and to the athletes in the games. This has given rise to moments like the Black Power Salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. It has also given rise to moments of terror as in the 1972 Munich Massacre when Israeli athletes were killed by members of a Palestinian terrorist group. The Olympics have always been the centre of the world and have many times been used as a political platform. Sometimes the Olympics are never meant to be a political platform but they act as one anyone and that may be the case in London. For those making the political statement it is just their shot at the Olympics as they do not go into the Olympics looking to make a statement. These athletes will be the women of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Brunei as they will make the Olympics for the first time ever. Before 2012 women from these countries were not allowed to compete in the Olympics by their countries. Due to rules and attitudes in many Arab countries women were never allowed to compete in the Olympics but the political changes have seen a new attitude. This year athletes like Bahiya al-Hamad or Nada Mohammed Wafa Arakji will walk into the Olympic Stadium in London alongside the rest of their country’s athletes as equals. For them it is just their chance to compete on the world stage for many around the world it will be a sign of change in a very uncertain part of the world.


The Pool Heats up in London





Much like Track the Swimming pool will be a point of focus in the London 2012 Olympics as one of the most popular Olympic sports in the program. The USA has put together a lot of great performances in the pool and a large part of that has been Michael Phelps. Phelps burst on to the swimming scene in the early 2000s. In the 2003 World Championships Phelps showed his ability entering six races and winning four of them. It was a good warm-up for the 2004 Olympics where he won six of the eight events he entered in Athens. The dominance continued on the world stage as Phelps only got better and began taking every race he entered. In 2008 Phelps looked poised for history when he entered 8 events and looked to have a good shot at every one of them. He would look to beat former American great Mark Spitz who won 7 Gold Medals at the 1972 Olympic Games. He went into the Beijing Olympics and dominated winning all 8 races including helping Team USA to two relay wins. This put him in the record book as winning the most Gold Medals in a single Olympic Games and immediately made him a superstar. Phelps returns to the Olympics in London with one more record in mind that he will likely beat as he has entered seven events and looks to win three more medals at least. These three medals will put him above Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union who won 18 total medals in her Olympic Career. He will hope that they are gold again this year but there is no guarantee with a true rival emerging from his own country. Ryan Lochte has made his presence known in the swimming world as one of the few swimmers that can challenge the legend. In the 2011 World Championships Phelps entered 7 events and lost two both with the Gold medal going to Lochte. It will be a great battle in the pool at London between Phelps and Lochte as Phelps looks for more gold, he will likely earn his record, but Lochte could be there to stop him this year.


Women Fight it out in the Squared Circle




Women in the Olympics have been around for decades but have fought for every single step up until this point. Originally Women were not allowed in the Olympics in 1896 as some thought it would be uninteresting and un-lady like. It did not take too long for women to be allowed into the Olympics as they first made an appearance in the 1900 Games. It wasn’t much as they were only limited to a few sports like golf and lawn bowling as they were still not given equal billing to the men. Since that time women athletes have continued to fight for their chance to compete in all of the same sports as the men. It has been a slow process but every Olympic Games sees more women competing in more sports as equality increases. Every set of games sees more and more sports become equal and in London the same will happen. For one the track cycling will now be 100% equal as men and women will compete in the same sports throughout the cycling program. The most intriguing addition though will likely be the addition of Women’s Boxing into the Summer Olympic program. Women’s boxing seems to be drawing a number of followers as many women will have their shot at the Olympics. Boxing has been a launching pad for many of the professional athletes in the men’s competition and women’s boxing hopes to see the same. Fighters like Layla Ali have been the driving force of women’s boxing but it has not been enough for the sport to really take-off. With the addition of the sport in the Olympics many fight fans may see the beginning of the next generation of professional fighters. Whether or not this does happen there will be one thing that is for sure as these women will fight their hearts out in London. They have been waiting for years to be able to make an appearance in the Olympics and they will not spoil their first chance. The new sport has created more equality in the Olympics and has already created heroes for some as the fight for equality in the Olympics continues to progress forward.

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